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Graflex Pacemaker Speed Graphic

by Tim Takahashi, 1996


Arguably the most influential camera of the century, the Graflex Speed Graphic was the quintessential "professional" camera from the 1930's through the early 1960's. Hundreds of thousands of these workhorses were manufactured, sold and used. This makes them one of the most popular and least expensive 4x5" camera systems available to today's photographer. As a result, the Speed Graphic is often recommended as the ideal camera for the beginning large format photographer. Is it a great camera? Yes. Is it the "best" inexpensive view camera? No.

The Speed Graphic was the most common of all "press" cameras. While any camera that can take a photograph of a newsworthy event could be considered a press camera, the term describes a unique beast. In general, a press camera has the following characteristics:

  • folds into a strong, compact box
  • flexible bellows
  • lenses can be easily interchanged
  • accepts sheet film
  • ground glass focusing screen
  • can be used handheld
  • comes equipped with an optical viewfinder

The most common size film for press cameras is 4x5". Although Graflexes were made in such unusual sizes as 2-1/4x3-1/4", 3-1/4x4-1/4", 3-1/2x5-1/2" and 5x7", the 4x5" Speed Graphic was the most common, and remains the most usable size. The Speed Graphic was produced in several design revisions from 1917 through 1973. This review describes an early production Pacemaker Speed Graphic, a model manufactured between 1947 and 1970.

The Speed Graphic is a remarkably rugged and versatile photographic tool. It has a composite wood, steel and aluminum chassis which is both light and strong. The complete camera weighs in at around five pounds, not that much heavier than a Nikon F4 considering that the film is 16X the size. It can be bewilderingly complex, with a Rube Goldberg-esque assortment of features. For each exposure, the Speed Graphic photographer has the choice of using one of three viewfinders (ground glass, wire frame, optical), three focusing aids (ground glass, scale, rangefinder) and one of two shutters (front leaf shutter or rear focal plane shutter).

There is precious little automation. On the bright side, that means you don't have to worry about batteries. However, there are no interlocks either; you can fog film, shoot blanks or double expose to your heart's content. Yet one learns quickly with this straightforward device; I rarely shoot blanks and have never double exposed a negative. Instead, I have grown to appreciate the flexibility that the modular Graflex design offers.

In essence, any camera is a light tight box which holds film at one end and a lens at the other. The Speed Graphic bellows extends 12-3/4", which is sufficient for 1:1 reproduction using a 150mm lens and for portraiture using the 380/5.6 Graflex Tele-Optar. The camera also can be used with relatively wide angle lenses, a 90mm being the widest practical (this gives a similar perspective to that of a 24mm lens on a 35mm camera). Barrel lenses are easily adapted for use; the supplemental rear focal-plane shutter has usable speeds from 1/30 second to 1/1000 second.

The key to successful Graflex photography is to realize that the camera is a large-format approximation of a Nikon F4 and was never intended to replace a view camera. The Speed Graphic has a fixed, non-rotating back, and only modest Scheimpflug potential. The bed can drop 15 degrees and the front lens standard can be tilted back a commensurate amount. There is a little over one-inch of lateral shift, and less than two inches of rise available. While this is insufficient "view camera" action for some, it remains, nonetheless, extremely useful for perspective correction and depth of field enhancement. I use my 4x5" Speed Graphic as my primary camera, and have rarely found a time where the availability of front standard movements was limiting.

The Camera

The metier of the Speed Graphic is speed; its handheld potential, the action photograph. The rear focal plane shutter is unique among press cameras; the 1/1000 second speed is especially useful with long lenses. A selector switch on the side of the camera marked "FRONT", "BACK", and "TRIP" allows the user to select which shutter will be coupled to the pushbutton shutter release. To some the concept of dual shutters is bewildering, but it makes complete operational sense to me. I use the front shutter for all flash photography, and for all general photography up to the lens-in-shutter's top speed; when 1/1000 second exposures are required I use the focal plane shutter. Of course, the focal plane shutter is used exclusively with barrel mount lenses such as my 380/5.6.

The wire-frame viewfinder is an ergonomic delight; it naturally adjusts to compensate to the focal lengths of most normal lenses. It has click-stop adjustable parallax correction. It allows viewing the subject with both eyes open, and without the typical SLR image blackout. I have a much lower opinion of the optical reverse-Galilean finder. It is squinty with normal lenses and uselessly squinty when masked for use with telephoto lenses.

One problem with early Pacemaker Graphics is that the split-image rangefinder can be synchronized for use with only a single lens. This relegates all accessory lenses to either scale or ground glass focusing. Later model cameras have a revised rangefinder that uses interchangeable cams. In my camera, the 152/4.5 Ektar is my primary lens; and for handheld use, the 127/4.7 Ektar is scale focused. My other lenses, the 90/6.8 wide angle and the 380/5.6 telephoto are relegated to tripod/ground glass use. [Note: the Anniversary-model Speed Graphic, used by Joe Rosenthal to make the famous photograph of the American flag being raised over Iwo Jima, currently resides at the George Eastman House in Rochester, NY. This camera has a 10" telephoto lens fitted, the optical viewfinder appropriately masked, and the rangefinder adjusted to synchronize with the telephoto lens.]

Note: See this table if you want to know the 35mm equivalents of lens focal lengths for a 6x6cm camera.

The Negative

There are three backs offered on Pacemaker series Graphics: the Graphic "spring" back, the Graflex back and the Graflock back. The Graflex back uses obsolete film and plate holders and is best avoided. The choice between Graphic and Graflock back is one of flexibility. The "spring" type back accepts all conventional sheet film holders, Grafmatic holders, sheet film Polaroid holders and some slip-in type roll film holders. The "Graflock" back features a removable metal frame. With the ground glass removed, a variety of pack film Polaroid backs and bulky roll-film holders may be installed. The Graflock is a luxury, in my opinion.

Front-shutter type lenses supply the necessary synchronization for modern electronic flash. An advantage of leaf-shutters is that they can synchronize with the flash tube at all speeds. Since most lens shutters have a relatively high top speed (1/400 or 1/500), the opportunities for fill-in-flash are extended. A typical press camera operator in the 1940's would have his or her Graphic loaded with Super Panchro Press (an ASA 250 film), the lens (a 127mm Ektar) focused to 10 feet, the shutter set to 1/200 second @ f/16 and a "#5" flashbulb mounted in the flashgun. Depth of field was substantial; anything from 6 to 20 feet would be passably sharp. The fill-in flash would ensure tame lighting ratios, enhancing the look of the finished news photo.

The Print

My Graphic is equipped exclusively with "last-generation" lenses. My primary lens is a 152/4.5 Kodak Ektar, rangefinder coupled. I also use the 380/5.6 Graflex Tele-Optar in barrel, a 90/6.8 Schneider Angulon and a 127/4.7 Kodak Ektar. My personal aesthetic eschews the ultra-vivid Velvia look so popular today; the ultimate in contrast is neither necessary nor desired. Operationally, the 4x5" Speed Graphic produces results with excellent image quality, certainly of "Hasselblad-quality" and perhaps a bit sharper and richer due to the larger negative. Both 127/4.7 and 152/4.5 Ektars are sharp, reasonably contrasty and free from objectionable distortion or flare-spots. The 90/6.8 Angulon is less sharp, but acceptable. The 380/5.6 Tele-Optar has lower contrast than the others, but is acceptable.

The 4x5" aesthetic is seductive; grain is essentially non-existant. I tend to use relatively fast black-and-white emulsions and develop in speed enhancing developers; Kodak Tri-X-Professional exposed at EI-1000 and souped in Acufine is a favorite. Grain is invisible in all prints 11x14" and smaller. I find it difficult to print from emulsions such as Kodak TMAX-100 used in handheld situations. If there is any handheld blur, it is impossible to focus the enlarger on details in the negative. And for smaller prints, the film grain is not visible under my focusing microscope.

Summary

The Speed Graphic is a competent general-purpose photographic tool. For the user seeking a camera with the flexibility of sheet film, the quality of 20-square inches of film per image, limited perspective control and legendary rugged portability, the Speed Graphic is an excellent value. At the same time, design concessions made to ensure the portability and durability of the camera restrict its use as a true view camera.

Many of the most famous images of the twentieth century were made using the Speed Graphic : two examples are the Hindenburg Explosion of 1937 and the flag raising at Iwo Jima, 1945. For that matter, the ubiquitous Speed Graphic probably made some of your own treasured family photographs. Whether it was brides, babies or battles, the Speed Graphic was there.

Even with rising status as a collectable, the Speed Graphic is primarily a user camera. It is an alternative to a Hasselblad rather than a bargain Sinar. A close relative of the Speed Graphic is the Crown Graphic, essentially the same camera but without the rear focal-plane shutter. Either camera, used within its design parameters, is wholeheartedly recommended.


More

Check www.graflex.org.

Technical Specifications

Manufacturer Graflex,Inc. Rochester, NY (1947-1970)
Original Manufacturer's List Price $250 (1947)- $500 (1970)
Typical Asking Price (1996) $150-$500
Body Construction Mahogany and Metal
Body Covering XXX Morocco Leather (early), Leatherette (later)
Bellows Extension 12-3/4" (Speed Graphic); 12-1/2" (Crown Graphic)
Front Standard Rise, Shift, Tilt
Back Graphic (spring), Graflock (removable spring) or Graflex (removable)
Ground Glass conventional or Fresnel (Ektalite)
Focal Plane Shutter 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000, T
Factory Lenses
  • 3-1/2" (90mm) f/6.8 Graflex W.A. Optar
  • 4" (100mm) f/6.3 Kodak Wide Field Ektar
  • 5" (127mm) f/4.7 Kodak Ektar
  • 5-1/4" (135mm) f/4.7 Graflex Optar
  • 6" (152mm) f/4.5 Kodak Ektar
  • 6-3/8" (162mm) f/4.5 Wollensak Raptar
  • 10" f/5.6 Graflex Tele-Optar
  • 15" f/4.5 Graflex Tele-Optar


Text and photos copyright 1993-1996 Timothy Takahashi
PhotoCD scans by Advanced Digital Imaging

Photo Credits:

  1. Graflex Pacemaker Speed graphic System (Graflex View Camera, 190/4.5 Wollensak rRaptar, Ilford HP5)
  2. Governor Mario Cuomo at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics University of Rochester, Rochester, NY, 1993. (Graflex Speed Graphic, 152/4.5 Ektar, f/16 @ 1/200, #5 flashbulb, Tri-x Professional @ EI-320, Microdol-X)
  3. Grand Canyon from the air, Grand Canyon, AZ, 1996. (Graflex Speed Graphic, 152/4.5 Ektar, f/11 @ 1/1000, Ilford HP5 @ EI-1000, Acufine)
  4. Bridal-Veil Falls from the Rainbow Bridge, Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, 1993. (Graflex Speed Graphic, 380/5.6 Optar, f/9.5 @ 1/500, Kodak Ektachrome 200)
  5. Niagara at Dusk - 90mm/6.8 Angulon - Kodak Ektachrome 200 f/16 - time exposure

Article created 1996

Readers' Comments


Add a comment



Jerry Vincent , January 28, 1997; 02:24 P.M.

Enjoyed your Speed Graphic page. I have a Pacemaker Speed Graphic (4x5) with 127 Ektar. I have been shooting handheld with TMax 400 and using a Vivitar 283 flash. So far the results have been excellent technically, my creativity as a photographer so far is somewhat lacking. I think as I get more comfortable with the camera that the images will get more exciting. Fellow Graphic users feel free to email me at: vince004@maroon.tc.umn.edu

Alan Duggie , March 11, 1997; 07:35 P.M.

I have owned two Pacemaker Crown Graphics, the first in the early 50's and the other was purchased in 1962. There is almost nothing that is beyond these cameras (as long as you don't need a motor drive). Even though I have a regular view camera I still use the Crown for wide angle work. With a 65mm Super Angulon I have to run the standard back into the body, drop the bed and focus on the ground glass. (The lens is on a flat board.) Old this camera is (and old am I) but it still turns out great images.

Gerry Siegel (Honolulu) , April 24, 1998; 07:25 P.M.

I appreciate people who use this camera so steeped in history. The Navy issued me one when I first enlisted. Since so few people want to mess with sheet film nowadays, let me suggest a budget smaller medium format6X9 model younger sister of this camera which shares many of the good features and can be found cheaply. The Century Graphic. Try looking up http://www.graflex.org/speed-graphic/century-graph ic.html. I still use my Bakelite and aluminum model with roll backs now and then with a Zeiss Tessar f3.5 lens and Kalart rfinder. Bellows racks out to 1:1. The old reliable camera. I have a pistol grip with cable release which makes it a poor man's Linhof -well almost.

K. B. Lawson , June 24, 1998; 01:05 A.M.

I really enjoyed the article about Speed Graphics. I have been a Graphic user for about two years, but my Graphic of choice is the Super Graphic. Graphlex made this camera from '59 to '70 and it has a number of improvements over the Speeds and Crowns. While it has no focal plane shutter it

William Baguhn , August 16, 1999; 02:12 A.M.

This page was one of the primary influences for getting me into 4x5 photography. I'm now the proud owner of a Pacemaker Speed Graphic, with a 135 f4.7 Optar. I considered the Super Speed Graphic for a while (X-sync @ 1/1000th of a second, flashbulb sync to 1/750th) for fill-flash, but when the Pacemaker practically fell into my lap I couldn't refuse.

For those people who have not yet shot with, or even touched, a 4x5 camera, I must say: Do it. There is nothing to be afraid of. 4x5 is a wonderful way to shoot, even if chrome is about $3 a frame.

The Graflex family is amazing. And, if anybody out there gets their hands on a Graflex R.B. Super D, use it. Wow. I saw a small RB, and they are amazing. Large format SLR. The Super D has auto-stop down lenses, even.

Gary Ross , December 13, 2000; 12:27 P.M.

I carried around a speed graphic for four years while serving as a navy photographer. Loved the thing. I presently own a very nice graflex view I with Rodenstock 150mm sironar N lens. Love this old camera. I also encourage anyone who has not used large format you are missing out on a great experience.

Robert Byrd , December 11, 2001; 09:02 P.M.

I found a beaten-up Voigtlander Bergheil with a perfect Heliar lens on it, and transplanted the lens to a board for my Pacemaker Speed Graphic. My Kodak Ektar 127mm gives me sharper black-and-white shots, but the Heliar is nonpareil for color. I have roll-film and Polaroid backs for this machine, and there's almost nothing I can't do with it. Go out and get one of these and enjoy the long tonal range and killing sharpness of the prints. Speed Graphics are plentiful, inexpensive, tough, and will take all sorts of great lenses and helpful attachments. And Sinar still makes new stuff that fits them!

bruce draper , April 10, 2004; 06:56 A.M.

hi I'm a pro in the u.k who is still using graflex for my work (commercial) and joy ,nice to see that some people still have the balls!! to use a CAMERA ,nice site keep it going thanks bruce www.proshoots.com

Scott Pickering "25 ASA" , September 20, 2004; 12:51 A.M.

I recently purchased on Ebay a very used Speed Graphic for my first (and probably only) 4x5 camera. Its such a basic design that anyone could learn to use. and have some fun with. Im currently browsing for a wide angle for this camera. It is well designed for hand holding capability shooting which is not common for large format cameras. I still use a tripod however, and treat mine like a view camera. My first time out with it I was taking pics of some sand castles at the beach, and a newspaper photographer walked by and had to stop. We got talking about how they used to use these cameras for newspapers, so on. He was using digital. He ended up taking some pics of me shooting with this old camera. These things get attention. I often get people asking about this camera when Im out with it. People are so used to seeing small digicams these days. And you still get great results with these old beaters.

David Rivera , October 11, 2004; 09:20 P.M.


4x5 Pacemaker Crown Graphic

I bought my 4x5 Crown Graphic in 2002 thanks in part to this review here on photo.net. This is a wonderful camera easy to use, fast, and affordable.

There is even a photojournalist using a Speed Graphic to document the 2004 presedential race. Cool stuff. http://www.digitaljournalist.org/issue0402/dis_burnett.html

And as someone who has used a Nikon D1 dslr, digital is nowhere near as fun as using my Crown Graphic whether I'm shooting Polaroids or film.

It would be nice if more photojournalists used medium or large format cameras as I think it would make for far more interesting photos.

Elton Manz , November 19, 2004; 11:07 P.M.

My second camera was an Anniversary Speed Graphic that I bout from and old new photographer in 1974 . I still use it with the 135 mm lens

Russ Rosener , January 10, 2005; 12:48 A.M.

A great camera. I recommend finding an old Schneider 90mm Angulon with Press shutter for it. My folder "Arcane Figures in Obscure Places" was shot with this combination. Stunning results using an old fashioned film like Efke 25. A true classic camera that can still deliver.

Image Attachment: 4x5_Kneel.jpg

Ed Lincoln , February 25, 2005; 10:00 P.M.

I was at a Boston court house trying to get a photo of the Boston Strangler?s brother and when I came back to the Globe with a bad photo the old timers said I should get in close with the Speed Graphic. They were made tough so when the criminals tried to kick your private parts the camera would take the blow, and, could take it. There were a lot of bigger than life stories around Washington Street (newspaper Row). After 50 active years with the old cameras I still enjoy them.

Robert Young , April 06, 2005; 11:48 A.M.

Another classic pic made with this type of camera according to an article I just read: Oswald ( President Kennedy's assassin) being shot by Ruby in the Texas police station.

Jeff Bishop , September 26, 2005; 08:13 P.M.

Great article!

I've got an Anniversary and Miniature Speed Graphics, and a 2x3 Crown Graphic as well. I love them all! They are a joy to use, and will bring you right back to the basics real quick.

The quality of the image is outstanding, and it gives me the ability to enlarge far beyond my desires.

It may sound funny with 60+ year old cameras, but these are the cameras to plan tours and vacations around. The Graphics will bring home the 'outstanding' photographs that we all want.

Beepy . , November 24, 2005; 09:13 P.M.

I have several models of Graflex cameras. The ones I choose the most are the Super Graphic and the Super Speed Graphic. The Super Speed is very easy to use handheld - cocking the lens by rotating the lens shade is a lot simpler than finding the small cocking lever on other large format lenses. Taking the Super Graphic to Antarctica right now (connecting to South America via Miami).

Matt Bigwood , March 10, 2006; 06:31 P.M.

I've just bought a Speed Graphic, partly due to its iconic status, and the fact that I'd love to have been around and working in photography when these cameras were new.

I can't think of an equivalent iconic camera used by pressmen here in the UK - my old boss at a newspaper used a British made VN press camera (9x12cm plates) from the 1940s to 1960s until the Rolleiflex superseded it.

The Speed Graphic is still a great camera to use, and can turn a few heads at the same time!

Marvin Mobley , January 08, 2007; 08:01 P.M.

I've been busy at ebay, I now own a anniversery 4x5, 2 speed graphics and 1 crown 4x5's,and 5 various aged 2.25x3.25 speed and crown graphics....Only a single lens with each so far. looking and bidding on several wideangle and tele lens's for the 4x5's. I also own 12 pentax 35mm of various models, skads of normal wideangle and tele lenses...got 8 polaroid 110A's an equal amount of 900's. going to take the singlewindow rangefinder viewfinders off the 900's to make the 110A B models...Going to add various polaroid pack backs, 4x5 backs and some 2.25x3.25 backs with 120 roll film backs....May leave some rangefinders off the 900's and offer for sale as view cameras...spent 20+ years as a photographer in the Air Force and now getting back into it after almost 40 years...

mike plews , January 24, 2007; 01:48 P.M.

Last year I sent my son my old pacemaker speed graphic to use up at the university where he is studying fine art photography. It is one of the later model cameras (1963) and I sent a 135mm Xenar and a 90mm 6.8 Angulon for him to use with it. He is going through the tri-x like it's candy and has been sending me both projection prints on Multigrade FB and some really pretty palladium prints he has done. It does my old heart good to see one of my favorite cameras out in the field making pictures again. BTW did you know that Wright Morris did most of his work during the 1940's with a graphic? Great cameras.

Edwin Clements , April 07, 2007; 10:34 P.M.

I have 2 Crown Graphics. One of them I got in about 1987 for about $160, and the other one in 1988 for $250. The $250 one is in excellent shape and has a 135 mm Schneider lens on it. I've used it for various things, but not as often recently. The $160 one has a Kodak Ektar lens on it, and cosmetically isn't quite as nice looking, but it works fine also. I have used it for some cave photography (I use it because if something happens to it in the cave, I won't get as upset because I don't have as much in it). I think the last time I did that was in about 1992, I did a group shot of a bunch of cavers, using a #11B flashbulb and Kodak VPS color sheet film, and everyone just loved the sharpness that I got on 8x10 enlargements of it. Yeah, I like these modern digital cameras, and being able to see the results instantly with very little variable cost, and not having to develop the film, and all that, but I think anybody who is seriously interested in photography ought to get one of these things and use it some, just for the experience. They'll appreciate it. BTW I remember hearing a while back that someone is coming up with a CCD sensor about 4x5 inches, suggesting that it might be eventually able to be mounted on one of the Graflexes. That should be interesting.

Zach Kessin , July 09, 2007; 12:10 A.M.

I looked on Ebay and there were a number of Speed graphics with lens for under $100. There was at least one or two that I might have been tempted to bid on for the lens alone (though I probably would have used the camera as well)

Cole Paquette , February 20, 2008; 07:30 P.M.

i have been trying to get one of these cameras for the longest time, the press cameras are a cheap, easy introduction to large format photography. besides, i have heard that the graflex cameras are the best.

John Golden , March 10, 2008; 07:33 P.M.

A very good article, I have a 2x3 crown with the 105mm ektar, awsome lens, and i have a 4x5 speed graphic, not sure which one, i think its the anniversary. it's beat all to hell but the focal place shutter is dead on. I have a 127mm ektar, 162mm wollensak in a rapex shutter that i use mostly. i also have a 210mm wollensak barrel lens. this camera is awsome. the 162 is tack sharp when stopped down to at least f16. i would like to get a wide angle for it sometime, ive been looking. thanks for the article

Jack Welsh , May 27, 2008; 07:15 P.M.

I have an Annversary Speed and a Baby speed. The Anniversary has 3 lenses.A 135mm Graphlex Optar, a 6 3/8"Kodak Graphic, and a Wollensak in 127mm.

chase canade' , June 07, 2008; 10:05 A.M.

Hi - may i ask for an expounded defiiniton of "XXX" Morocco Leather?

I've looked it up and find nothing for XXX leather of any kind.

If it is a thickness referance of the leather - this is what i found as far a thiincknesses are conserned: Thickness Table

And if it is a Grade of Leather, I only found this referance: Grade Table

Neither table has a "XXX" denoting any thinckness or grade - so what is the "XXX" in the above description refering to?

tia

btw: I own the Crown Graphic Special.May not be the Speed but I'm still proud to own and be able to have the opportunity to shoot with one.

hahaha notsosure , October 12, 2008; 07:59 P.M.

Hi,

I just bought a graflex pacemaker 45 and not sure how to open the front bed out. Do I have to just push the release slide on the side? There are two knobs on the sides near the top as well. Please advice me, I'm still new to this kind of camera.

Thank you,

Tony

Dave Moeller , October 19, 2008; 10:58 A.M.

There should be a bump under the leather on the top of the camera. Press that, and the front bed will release itself from the body of the camera. Pull it down until it clicks into place.

Thomas Evans , June 05, 2009; 08:41 P.M.

The bump under the leather to open the Speed Graphic is on the top (center) on the Aniversary model, and is on the left (strap) side near the top on the Pacemakers. To open the Super Graphics, one turns the focus knobs on the sides of the bed. This was the very first thing that baffled me when I first picked up the Speed I got in a newspaper classified (that's how long ago I got it!). Strongly built! I put a f3.5 Xenotar on it to help in dim light. Once I saw a 4x5 contact print there was no going back.

Gregory Sittler , July 06, 2009; 12:10 A.M.

I have been using the same Speed Graphic since about 1970. In the last several years, I have gotten into digital photography, and gotten tired of darkroom work with all of its standing-on-feet operations. Now, instead of using an enlarger and chemicals, I shoot the portion of the negative that I am interested in with my Nikon D90, and print from my computer. I gave my darkroom away to a much younger woman who expressed interest in playing with film. With the 12 megapixel resolution of the D90, I can actually find the grain on the Ilford HP5 +400 film, but I have to focus on about 1 square inch of the negative. I am happy to be free of the darkroom (you can develop film without one), but there are still things that only happen with silver and chemicals. One of the main things I love about taking pictures with the Speed Graphic is the response i get from the under-30 crowd. They all know it's a *CAMERA*, and when I use it, they know I am a FOSSIL! Children want to know why they can't see the image right after I shoot ... what's THAT all about?

Mario Henriquez , August 31, 2009; 04:11 P.M.

Where can I get one of these? What should I get? A Crown Graphic or a Speed Graphic? I would like to get a bundle, with lens and the other stuff I will need to start shooting. Any help will be appreciated. Thanks.

J. Young , September 21, 2009; 11:09 P.M.

I just bought mine off of ebay. I payed right at $200 for it. I got a Speed Graphic, 4 film holders, the Ektar 127mm, and unusable flash. I have since got another flash, and it all works fine. I am very excited to be shooing HP5+ with flashbulbs just about every day.

I would not recommend getting a 2 1/3 format because film can be hard to find. It is heavy, as cameras go, but I don't mind holding 8 pounds of camera if it means I get to make 4x5 negs.

Wes Stone , January 10, 2010; 09:17 A.M.

I could not agree more - "arguably the most influential camera of the 20th century." I own four - all Anniversary models - one of which went ashore at Normandy on June 7, 1944. (Though it sits in a safe box now, it is still capable of making wonderful images.) Not only is the Speed Graphic fast and easy to use - yes, you heard me right - it IS easy to use - the bellows allow for the potential for superb art photos. A macro image done with a 127mm lens - on a large format negative - is just awesome. And the ground glass fdocusin screen allows for a degree of precision that can't be found anywhere else. Add a loupe or magnifying glass to the mix and... well, the potential is unlimited! For anyone who has not had the pleasure - the joy - of working with a 4x5" negative, well... I am sincerely sorry for them! And if you aren't sold yet, well... "chicks dig the big boxes!" So do the guys, ladies! ;)

bruce draper , February 24, 2010; 05:53 A.M.

hi just looked at your 'speed' write up very good well done I'm in the U.K a working pro for the last 30 years 'god i'm getting old' and yes I still use a 'speed' for my commercial work www.proshoots.com the last think I need on my shoots is speed so the graflex is great no battery,no silly cards,no programs,fantastic regards bruce

Greg Bartgis , July 03, 2010; 10:29 P.M.

The camera,of course, is only as good as the guiding eye.Edward Weston used a 3 1/4 X 4 1/4 Graflex to great effect.the Great WeeGee always shot with a handheld Speed Graphic.In their time,as well as to the present,the Kodak Ektars were some of the finest lenses available.The wide field Ektars.Had fairly good coverage-my favorite was the 100mm f/6.3,which would cover 4X5 with small allowance for swings and tilts,but,for the  photographer hand holding their rig,it was a great wide angle- arguably better than the Schneider Angulon (not to be confused with the Super Angulon-a far superior lens with greater coverage).100mm would cover approximately the same angle of view as a 30mm lens on a 35mm camera.The Commercial Ektars were some of the best in their class,as well,and were highly sought after well into the 80's

James Jacocks , November 24, 2010; 08:58 A.M.

The thing about Speed Graphic and Crown Graphic cameras is the light weight and drop bed design.  The weight makes them eminently portable and the closed box is safer than and exposed lens system.  I too have gone partially digital but still prefer to do my B/W on film and that means the Graphics are still valid shooters for me.  I like the 6x9 Speed and Crown Graphics because they are smaller and the 4x5s because of the bigger negative.  Pretty obvious stuff, but you have to take one in hand to really appreciate it.

Gene Woods , February 27, 2011; 01:37 A.M.

I just got a Crown Graphic w/ Schneider-Keruzach xenar 135mm F 4.7 lens a spring back and a RH/8 120 back. I'm Getting to know it after loading a roll in the RH/8 backwords . Oh well it loads much more easy when you load it right. Can hardly wait to use it. 

Piet Defossez , May 25, 2011; 12:59 A.M.

Hi to all, I am particularly interested make the jump to LF, I shoot MF rangefinder (Fuji GW690) and square format (Mamiya C330). 

I am very interested into handheld photography and naturally the Graflex cameras are standing out in this department.

It is however not easy to piece together the puzzle and despite my long hours of research I need to ask some questions to people who have hands-on experience with them.

So here are the questions:

1 - what are the differences between the super graphic and the crown graphic (apart from the movements)? is there somewhere I can get the weight? I found one place that says they weight the same at 2.4kg (and the speed graphic just 200g more which I found hard to believe)

2 - the focal plane shutter on the speed, everywhere on the net I find people saying it is almost impossible to use the Pentax 67 handheld because of it's huge shutter, how can a 4x5 focal plane shutter fare better? anyone with experience? or is the shutter is positioned closer to the front standard and thus smaller?

3 - when used handheld, with the rangefinder and cammed lenses, I guess I can't use any movements (and judge the effects accurately) it is "transforming" the camera in a big folder (a la bessa III) , right?

4 - what is the difference between top mounted and side mounted rangefinder, apart from the obvious positioning? and how do you focus the lens? is it made by turning a knob, moving the front standard (like the Mamiya C330?) and is this made while looking through the rangefinder or is the rangefinder just there to tell the distance and I need to report it on the distance scale?

I think this is it for the moment, I might have more questions but can't think of anything right now.

 

Thanks for your help

 

Piet

 

Joe Cantrell , September 25, 2011; 04:21 P.M.

I had the good fortune to be handed the school Speed Graphic in 1960 and at age 14, became "school photographer."  We shot everything including action with them back then, and I still cherish my latest 4x5 Graphic, a Super Speed with several lenses, and two Baby Graphics.

If anyone still has questions about these wonderful cameras, please make them explicit as possible and I'll do my best to provide a useful answer.

Kristian Heitkamp , May 23, 2014; 02:00 P.M.

I really like this very interesting review although it is nearly two decades old now. It is great to see that there are still great resources from the beginnings of the world wide web that still survived and are relevant.

But I have one question to ask. The author claims: "Is it the "best" inexpensive view camera? No".

I would like to know, if someone has an idea, which could be the better inexpensive view camera.


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